The handcrafted movement has been embraced by the fashion world over the past few years, with craftsmanship-oriented brands — including Minnesota’s own J.W. Hulme Co. and Faribault Woolen Mill — being picked up by high-end retailers. Meanwhile, major fashion houses such as Burberry are collaborating with luxury craft brands.
But the 75-year-old American Craft Council has mixed craft with fashion for decades. Now in its 31st year in St. Paul, the American Craft Show (formerly the American Craft Council Show) returns to RiverCentre this week with an exhibition featuring 73 new-to-the-show artists, including 48 fashion and jewelry makers. Here are five of the most stylish newcomers at this year’s show.
Designer: Jennie Lennick Label: Jenny Lemons Location: San Francisco
Jennie Lennick began making her own clothing and art as a child growing up in rural Minnesota. “I spent more of my time tinkering with my sewing machine, making toys and clothes and embroidering fabric,” she said. After graduating from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2010, she moved to San Francisco to earn her MFA in painting. She founded Jenny Lemons — named for her college nickname — four years ago after selling out a run of handmade shirts printed with her original designs. Like the name suggests, the Jenny Lemons brand is fun, bright and colorful, featuring whimsical, hand-painted prints inspired by nature and fruit. Lennick partners with factories in California to sew her garments and home textiles, all made from natural, organic and recycled fabrics. Recently, the designer opened her own storefront in San Francisco’s Mission District, where she sells her small-batch clothing and home textiles. (jennylemons.com)
Designer: Agnieszka Zoltowski
Label: Love Oru
Location: Portland, Ore.
Agnieszka Zoltowski was born and raised by her Polish-immigrant parents in the Pacific Northwest, a setting that inspires the vibrant color palette and organic shapes of her jewelry designs. Zoltowski worked with Japanese Miyuki beads for the first time at a beading class she took when she was 12, falling in love with the colors and perfectly consistent shape that came together as she wove each bead using a traditional Native American technique called peyote stitch. She has continued to work with Miyuki beads for more than two decades, not only for their colors and tactility, but also for the meditative aspect of weaving on a miniature scale. Following an apprenticeship with a fine jewelry shop in Seattle, Zoltowski attended the Oregon College of Art and Craft before founding Love Oru, a collection of jewelry that combines handwoven beads with minimalist shapes to create tiny, wearable works of art. (loveoru.com)
Designer: Lauren Markley
Label: Lauren Markley Contemporary Jewelry
Location: Raleigh, N.C.
Like many craftspeople, Lauren Markley started her jewelry business as a hobby and creative outlet. Before long, the Kansas native was spending all her spare time making jewelry and selling it on Etsy. Once she started taking metalsmithing classes, though, she decided to devote more time to the practice and founded Lauren Markley Contemporary Jewelry. Now based in Raleigh, N.C., the designer is mostly inspired by architecture. Her bold, distinctive jewelry — primarily made from sterling silver, wood, enamel and silk thread — tends to be very geometric with references to scaffolds and concrete. (laurenmarkleyjewelry.com)
Designer: Nicole Alfieri
Label: Pico Vela
Location: Washington, D.C.
After attending Parsons School of Design in New York City and Paris, where she won the Student Designer of the Year Award, Nicole Alfieri spent several years working in the fashion industry around the globe. When she returned to the U.S., Alfieri took a job designing for a Washington, D.C., boutique, where she had the opportunity to work with a sweater manufacturer in Nepal. She was inspired to learn how to knit, becoming captivated by the spontaneity of patterns that appear naturally during the handloom knitting process. She discovered that by working with different yarns and mixing hues she could produce rich, unique patterns and colors like those found in her travels to Italy, Nepal and India. Everything from her knitwear line is handcrafted by U.S. artisans using the label’s proprietary blends of organic cotton, bamboo and linen. And each piece, ranging from tops, skirts and dresses, is designed to be worn in multiple ways. (picovela.com)
Designer: Nicole Woerner Kelly
Location: Napa, Calif.
Nicole Woerner Kelly grew up in Germany’s Black Forest region working with textiles and fibers, making lace for her mother’s living room curtains and clothing for her dolls. She moved to San Francisco 10 years ago to study fashion design and pattern-making. And in 2012, she founded Yolotli to counter what she calls “throwaway culture,” in which fast-changing trends and cheap manufacturing allow people to easily toss things. “Growing up in Germany with a large family made me very sensitive to conserving our resources and avoiding waste wherever possible,” she said. She set out to create a line of sustainably made, timelessly designed garments with high-quality natural fabrics that can decompose at the end of their life span. Originally founded as a kids’ clothing line, Yolotli has since expanded into womenswear, handmade leather sandals and accessories — including her unique “patch jewels” made from scraps of shearling, Japanese wool and leather. (yolotli.com)
Jahna Peloquin is the former style editor of Minnesota Monthly and a fashion, design and arts writer in Minneapolis.